Doob: Analyzing the mixed responses of a critically acclaimed film
Director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s magnum opus “Doob” has entered into its second week since its grand release on 27 October. Mostly in urban places, Farooki’s films always open big and there was no exception to “Doob” as well. Even before its official release, “Doob” created enough buzz mostly because of three reasons: its ‘rumored’ storyline based on acclaimed author late Humayun Ahmed, main protagonist’s character is played by renowned Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan and last but not the least – the film’s international recognition at various prestigious film festivals.
So it is easily understandable why there was a huge anticipation for the film especially among the target audience of Farooki – the youths. The initial few days after its release, when the words of mouth started to spread, it seemed the hype surrounding the film started to fizzle. Mesbah Uddin Ahmed, media manager of Star Cineplex said, “We expected better from “Doob”. We started with 14 shows per day on the first week. From second week, the film is being screened six shows a day.”
When Farooki’s debut film “Bachelor” got released more than a decade ago, it created a euphoria like none other. At Balaka, the film saw its dream run for about six months and on that time, it was an unprecedented thing because Farooki was not a household name that time. The film “Bachelor” was also not a typical Bangladeshi film with signature dialogues, romance and songs, yet it got rave reviews from masses and the classes. So why has the scenario different this time around? Why has “Doob” failed to become a commercial success like “Bachelor”? Let’s analyze.
There is a huge debate among many filmmakers and critics about the concept of ‘Art Films’ and ‘Commercial Films’. Some believe there is no reason to tagline a film into categories such as art films or commercial films because they believe films are two kinds: good films or bad films. A good film can boasts with artistic beauty and at the same time fetch commercial success as well. And a bad film: no matter how much critical acclaim it gets, will eventually end up becoming a box office disaster. A director who can understand his or her target audiences, promote and market the film according to its budget will eventually end up as a commercial success. Farooki definitely knows his target people—the youths who can resonate well with his films because the language of his films are tailored made for them. In his past films such as the “Third Person Singular Number”, “Television”, “Piprabidya” et al, young audiences were mostly seen giving good feedback. But can we say the same thing about “Doob”? I am sure the answer must be a resounding ‘NO’. Even in social media, “Doob” is getting mixed responses from the young audiences who have watched it so far. We understand Mostofa Sarwar Farooki is one of the finest storyteller of our times, we also understand each of his film is diametrically different from his last one, and we also do understand that with his film, he wants to emotionally, spiritually and psychologically get connected with his audiences. In his many interviews he has mentioned that he gets ideas of his script from his surrounding environment and when a particular incident of his surrounding environment gives him reasons for many sleepless nights, he makes it into a film in order to spread his inner thoughts and understanding of that incident among his viewers.
If we closely analyze Farooki’s previous films, we can see they are uniquely different from one another however the dialogues, storytelling, picturization, et al have signature Farooki stamps all over them. His films are entertaining, engaging and thought provoking. However “Doob” did not follow the same pattern and the acclaimed filmmaker himself admitted it. “Doob” is a story of human emotions in myriad forms and its overall theme is wrapped in sadness, unlike his earlier films. Perhaps this has been the biggest drawback of this film because some audiences were expecting a typical Farooki commercial potboiler but ended up getting a different experience altogether. Yours truly believe during the time of the promotion and marketing of this film, the director and producer (s) of the film should have explained the audience what to expect from the film. They raised the bar manifold because of the hype and hoopla surrounding it. I understand some filmmakers deliberately take a stand not to reveal much information about the film before it gets released so that the audiences can go for a surprise ride. But in the case of “Doob”, I believe this strategy backfired. Moreover the controversy surrounding “Doob” as an alleged Humayun Ahmed biopic involved curious viewers to draw an unnecessary comparison with the late author’s personal life. In the process of this comparison, the sheer pleasure of enjoying the underlying beauty of the film got somewhat wasted and there should be no two opinion about it.
On the whole, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki is definitely a maverick filmmaker of our times and he should be applauded for always pushing the envelope and daring to go out of the box.”Doob” may be criticized for its wrong marketing strategy but that should not take away the beauty and the gem the film itself is. A majority of the Bangladeshi film audiences are not yet ready to absorb a film of this caliber but if filmmakers like Farooki do not come up with such endeavors, this stagnant scenario would not change in years. “Doob” is much ahead of its time in terms of storytelling, framing and overall presentation. Those who are criticizing the film today, ten or twenty years down the line when they will see it again on their home theater, I am sure that day they will appreciate Farooki for breaking the stereotypes. I congratulate Farooki in advance for that.
(The writer is a freelance journalist and author of celebrity interview based book “Selected Interviews”)